Quinn in Crisis
by Maurice Roger
I know I shouldn’t serve Daisy her next drink, but I do anyway. I feel bad for her. This is all she has. She said she had been drinking since early this morning. But, hey, what am I supposed to do, not serve her?
I need to pay the car note on the brand new dark blue Ford Mustang GT I bought. I named my car Bella because she’s gorgeous. You should see her. She’s a beauty. Two black racing stripes down her middle. Rear view camera. 5.0 L V8 engine. Six-speed transmission. Zero to sixty in six seconds.
And when I push her on the highway, racing some goof who thinks he can beat me in his rusty Trans Am, doing one-twenty to his eighty, I swear her tires expand like the ones on drag cars and practically send me airborne.
I love Bella. She’s the car I’ve always wanted. I’ve had an infatuation with Mustangs since I was a kid. My wife, Adele, on the other hand, hates it. Flat out hates it. I don’t think Adele hates the actual car nor is she jealous. She just doesn’t like the fact that I bought it without consulting her first, because it puts our mortgage in jeopardy. But I’m not worried.
The thump of Daisy’s cane comes closer as she returns from the restroom. She plops herself on the stool directly in front of me. I can tell by the way her eyes roll from left to right and back again that she must be quite drunk. I place the vodka mixed with orange juice near her and she slides me a few bills.
“You were telling me that Adele doesn’t like the new car?” she says. She shoves the glass to her lips with one hand and batting the air with the other, mumbling, “Bah, she’ll get over it, Quinn.”
I nod and say, “I know she will, too. When I bought the Harley Davidson a couple years back, she gave me the same thing. And eventually she got over it. I know how to operate.”
“Baby, I’m sure you do,” Daisy says, winking.
“Adele just doesn’t have faith in me. I have always provided for her and the kids. Kept a roof over our heads. Put food on the table. Sent Sally to college last year, and Scottie this year. I did everything a man can do for his family, Daisy. I think I’m allowed to buy a new car, right? I think so.”
“I’m the one that should be telling you my problems,” Daisy says, trying to keep a straight face before finally exploding into hearty laughter, which eventually changes into a somber tone with, “You never told her you were planning on getting a new car, though?”
I find myself hesitating and looking at the window before a soft, “No,” exits my lips. The room goes quiet and the rain against the windowpane takes over. I rub my temples, feeling the tremors of an approaching headache. I’ve had one for the past few days.
Daisy removes a cigarette from her pocket. The expression on her aged face and pale blue eyes asks me if it’s okay to light it up in here. I purse my lips and nod. Nobody’s in here anyway. Dead day. If it stays this lifeless in here, I’ll just close early and call it a night.
Daisy will probably need a ride home. That’s fine. I’ll get to show off Bella again. The leather bucket seats. The steering wheel. The way Bella owns the road with her roar of the powerful engine. I’m sure she’ll be impressed.
Today was slow. A Tuesday. And the middle of the week is never a good time for this place. Probably because of the rain, too. All day long, it’s been coming down pretty bad. A gray day. A few of the regulars have come by and had one drink before leaving because they don’t want to drive in this weather.
Daisy struggles in her seat. Smoke releases from her nostrils. “Oh, did you hear about Betty?”
Daisy is always good for gossip. For a woman who drinks all day, she certainly has the skinny on lots of people. Daisy knows everything about the people of this neighborhood. More than I do.
I nod and ask, “Betty the insurance woman who lives on 4th or Betty the store clerk who lives on Main?”
“Betty on 4th.”
“She has a husband, too, right? Andrew ‘Andy Bats’ they call him. Was a hit man for hire back in the nineties.”
“Was?” Daisy says before taking a long drag from her cigarette. “If he isn’t, he still thinks he is.”
“Why’s that?” Daisy has me interested now.
“I haven’t seen Betty in a few weeks, but word is Andrew hit her again. I mean, bad this time. Emergency-room bad.”
“How the hell do you know that? Who’s your source?”
“Don’t you worry, Quinn.” Daisy dips her cigarette in the now empty Screwdriver glass. She exhales a final plume of smoke. “Gotta hit the head again and then I’ll be on my way.” She catches herself from falling and immediately begins laughing, hysterically, all the way to the restrooms down the hall.
Where does she get this stuff? Maybe I will close early. I doubt anyone else will come in today. Give Daisy a ride to her apartment and then face Adele at home. I’m sure she’ll bring up the car and the mortgage again.
It’s been hell in my home. It has gotten so bad during the last few days in fact, I have been thinking about the D word: Divorce. And I’m sure Adele has been thinking the same thing, too. I can see it in her eyes when she accuses me of not taking our finances seriously enough.
“Hey,” I told her, “I’m forty-three. I think I’m entitled to a little fun. For Chrissake, we got married at eighteen and had our kids practically right after. I have been working non-stop as a family man and as a bar owner for nineteen years. I know our bills are piling up, but somehow it will all work out. It always does.”
Last year, I won the lottery. Few thousand dollars and paid the bills. Year before that, Adele was promoted at work. We paid the bills with her extra money. Something always comes along. You can’t go through life worrying.
The rain is growing harder. A toilet flushes. Daisy rounds the corner. Before I mention taking her home, she says, “Bye, Quinny. See you tomorrow,” and trips over her cane until she hits the floor. I run over to her. I position her arms around my neck and drag her to her feet, hoping that she is still aware enough to walk. She is too heavy. Dead weight. I rest her next to the jukebox. What should I do? She can’t stay here all night. She lives alone. Not married. This headache is killing me.
The front door rushes open. A few moments pass. The air is musty. The wind howls, bringing the rain in. The squish of wet shoes step toward me. “Sorry, sir. But I was just about to close.”
The form of whom I thought was a man, removes her hood and closes the door. Betty the insurance agent. She holds a filled trash bag. Her soaking clothes drip rainwater to the floor. She drops the bag on a stool and folds her hands atop the bar. She doesn’t look good. Her hair, which usually pulls back in a makeshift bleach-blonde ponytail, now falls on the sides of her soft cheeks, revealing her brown roots. Large dark sunglasses spotted with dribbles of rain cover most of her face.
I’m about to ask her if everything is all right and why she is carrying a stuffed trash bag around on a rainy November night when she politely orders a drink. “Whiskey, please, Quinn.”
I say, “Sure,” and turn behind me towards the wall of bottles. As I pour the liquor, I use the mirror to glance a few peeks at Betty, who never moves an inch. Her hands stay folded and her face is expressionless. The Betty I know would talk up a storm by now. Typically, she arrives on the arm of her husband. They party on Friday and Saturdays, singing Frank Sinatra songs on the karaoke machine until the bar closes around 3am. Neither comes in here alone. Ever.
She takes the glass from my hand, gently and politely. I don’t ask for money and she doesn’t offer. The cell phone in my pocket vibrates. The picture on the screen is of my wife sitting on the couch, watching TV. My home phone number blinks along the bottom edges. Adele doesn’t know I took that picture of her. She was somewhere between being awake and asleep.
“Excuse me, Betty. It’s my wife.” Betty doesn’t respond. She sips her drink.
I walk to the end of the bar and say, “Yes, Adele.”
There is sorrow in her voice. “Hi,” my wife says. And that is all for a few moments until: “I just wanted to say that I hope we can turn things around. I really want to get along with you, Quinn. We should be able to get past these things. And now that the kids are out of the house, we will have more time and money.”
I don’t mean to sigh, but I do. “We never had problems with money, Adele.”
“Yes and no,” Adele says.
“The hell do you mean ‘yes and no’? Oh, the car again.”
“From now on, the mortgage is going to give us trouble each month now that you bought the car.”
I switch hands to hold my phone and see Betty still sitting in the same position. “Listen, Adele, I have to go,” I say, and end the call.
Copyright © 2015 by Maurice Roger